Black Lives Matter is not an Instagram trend


Courtesy of Instagram

As of June 2020, there were over 24 million posts for the #blackouttuesday. However, posting a black square for the Black Lives Matter movement is unhelpful and should not be a trend.

By Ela Jalil, News Editor

Last month, Instagram feeds were flooded with black squares on posts and stories. In some of the  stories, users would use the hashtag “BlackLivesMatter” and then tag three more people to repost the same message on their own stories. This trend was meant to bring awareness to the important issue going on in the United States and around the world. 

However, the problem with these posts and the black square challenge is that it turned the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement into a trend. BLM is not a trend, it is a movement and it cannot be trivialized down to a casual hashtag on someone’s story or feed.

The BLM movement started as a hashtag and then morphed into an organization in 2013 after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman. According to the BLM website, this organization fights for the “freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people.” 

Tagging chains are common on Instagram with numerous subjects. At the beginning of quarantine, there was a challenge meant to empower girls, where whoever was tagged posted a picture of themselves and then tagged five other people. There was the “until tomorrow” challenge, where users posted a funny picture of themselves and tagged others so that they would have to do the same. There was even a challenge of drawing a fruit or vegetable for an Instagram story and tagging friends in it. 

All of these trends slowly die out and are replaced with something new and after. They flood social media for a period of time, and then they fade away from memory. Making BLM a trend ultimately means that it will soon leave everyone’s feed when it isn’t “popular” anymore.  

In the beginning, the people that participated in the BLM trend believed that they were making a difference. But how can someone convey this important message with just a black screen and a hashtag? 

Performative activism is a form of activism where someone is simply trying to make themselves look good, they have no true devotion to the cause they are supporting. Major companies do it to show to the public they care about critical issues. For example, Bandaid has decided after almost 100 years that they should expand the color range of their product. Another example is when Lady Antebellum suddenly realized that their name has racist connotation, and alludes to a Pre-civil War past. The most common form however has been when someone posts a black square on their story, and then does not do anything after to help the BLM movement. 

Progress is progress, and it is good that these major companies are finally making a change. But posting one thing on social media simply because everyone else is doing it, is not making a huge difference. Under the “blackouttuesday” hashtag, there are over 19 million posts, but there were less than 17 million signatures on the George Floyd petition that same day. This just shows how many people are posting on social media, and then not participating in actions that can make an actual impact on the movement. 

It can be hard during this time to figure out ways to help. Protests might not be an option with COVID-19 still being a threat and donating money is also very hard during this time. 

Social media is a platform that makes sure that everyone’s voices are heard. Instead of reposting the same artwork/ quote post that is on everyone’s story, post things that you actually believe in. However no one is forced to post on their social media, and there are many other options to help BLM. They can sign petitions and watch youtube videos where creators are donating the revenue to BLM causes. And arguably most importantly, if you use the hashtag, you should understand what it means by educating yourself on the topic. Saying #blacklivesmatter is not enough: you also need to understand the background of the movement and why it is so important. Read books, watch movies, and have talks with your family about race.    

Beyond the black square, eventually social media is going to stop being flooded with the constant posts about BLM. To be a true ally, everyone needs to raise up black voices all of the time, and not only care about these issues when they are a trend. It is not a single action that helps to support the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a constant decision to change, educate and find a new perspective.